Davis among sluggers still on market
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Baseball executives headed home Thursday with top free-agent sluggers still on the market and trade talk percolating that could lead to more swaps in coming weeks.
Outfielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Chris Davis figure to strike the largest deals among hitters. The top pitchers already have signed, with David Price getting a $217 million, seven-year contract with Boston and Zack Greinke a $206.5 million, six-year deal with Arizona.
"I think the market is waiting to see what happens with Jason Heyward," said Arizona general manager Dave Stewart, who finalized Greinke's deal and acquired Shelby Miller during the meetings.
Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles' executive vice president for baseball operations, thinks it is clear why pitchers were pursued first.
"There's more teams chasing fewer players in that market. Supply and demand," he said.
The Orioles had reportedly made a seven-year $150 million offer to Davis earlier in the week. On Thursday, there were conflicting reports. One said the Orioles had pulled back that offer, while another said they had upped the offer. The Baltimore Sun, meanwhile, reported that the Orioles stood by their original offer.
Duquette told the Sun that he wouldn’t discuss the club’s offer to Davis or whether it had changed.
“We don't have any comment on the rumors,” Duquette said. “Lot of rumors out there.”
Ten trades made: Teams announced 10 trades and 11 free agent signings at the meetings, and several more free agents reached agreements that have not yet been announced.
In moves Thursday as people left, reliever Jonathan Broxton stayed with the St. Louis Cardinals, agreeing to a $7.5 million, two-year contract, and reliever Juan Nicasio agreed to a deal with Pittsburgh, one week after he was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Reliever Tony Sipp stayed with the Houston Astros for an $18 million, three-year contact and first baseman Mark Reynolds accepted a $2.6 million, one-year contract with the Colorado Rockies. Those two deals were disclosed by a person familiar with each negotiation who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
While a ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center was set up with a dais, 105 MLB logos as a backdrop, 150 seats in front and 336 media work spaces to the side, not a single trade or signing was announced at the podium. The only active player who spoke under the lights was Ben Zobrist, a Nashville resident who appeared Wednesday, a day after he finalized a contract with the Chicago Cubs. Teams prefer to make announcements in their suites.
In the old days, clubs liked the national stage of the meetings and often tried to have the core of their rosters in place before the holiday break.
Talks can get complicated: New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the feeling-out process in trade talk can be lengthy. He used a surfing analogy.
"You're sitting on a board, waiting for the right wave to come," he said. "And if it doesn't come, you paddle back to shore and walk on the beach, plant the board and then show up the next day and swim on out and see if any more good waves come. And if they do come, you ride it. And if they don't come, you wait for that right wave."
Talks with free agents who turned down $15.8 million qualifying offers from their former clubs can be complicated by reticence to give up draft pick compensation.
"They're getting increased recognition for the value that they provide," new Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "Teams have recognized the value of having draft selections."
Having bulked up his pitching staff, Stewart is looking for more arms. Mike Leake, 11-10 with a 3.90 ERA this year for Cincinnati and San Francisco, is a possibility.
"We did have some conversations with him and hope that continues," Stewart said. "We're hopeful that we can continue to talk."
Right now, most rosters are far from complete. After trading pitchers Adam Warren and Justin Wilson and adding infielder Starlin Castro, Cashman said he pleased new hitting coach Alan Cockrell and displeased pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
"Alan's got the nice Christmas card probably coming," Cashman said, "and I'm getting coal from Larry right now."
Notes: Next year's meetings are at National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.